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To Explain British Peerages For Meghan Markle

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This being the sort of thing that the Duchess of Sussex might want to be informed about:

Exclusive: Harry and Meghan rejected Earl of Dumbarton title for Archie for containing word ‘dumb’

Well, yes, except it’s not Archie’s title, it’s Harry’s.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex rejected the title Earl of Dumbarton for their son Archie because it contained the word “dumb”, it has emerged.

Multiple sources have told The Telegraph that both Harry and Meghan declined to use the title of Scottish nobility because they feared Archie might be bullied or attract unfortunate nicknames.

The word dumb is more prevalent in the US, where is it frequently used as slang for stupid.

A source said: “They didn’t like the idea of Archie being called the Earl of Dumbarton because it began with the word ‘dumb’ [and] they were worried about how that might look.”

Another insider added: “It wasn’t just Meghan who pointed out the potential pitfalls, it also bothered Harry.”

It’s also not a Scottish title, it’s a title associated with a place in Scotland. These are indeed different things.

There are five peerages – only five, Johnny Foreigner might have varied systems of mumbo jumbo but they of course don’t count – and they run on the idea of how many countries the King or Queen ran when the title was created. So, English titles back when it was the King of England granting, it was the King of Scotland that granted Scottish titles. At some point the two Kings became the same person but the distinction was kept until the nations merged rather than being ruled in personal union. At this point new titles became British titles. There was also the Irish system of peerages. Then, when it all became UK then the new peerages after that time became that of the UK. So, English, Scottish, Irish, British and UK peerages. Largely but not entirely exclusively divided by time of granting.

Earl of Dumbarton is named after a Scottish place, true, but it’s in the peerage of the UK. Because – in general – Scottish peerages haven’t been issued since the creation of the UK, actually, since the invention of GB.

Then there’s the bit about Royal Dukedoms. As part of being inclusive and national and all that. The subsidiary titles get chosen with place names of the other countries. So, after an English placename, a Scottish one for the next title, nowadays a Northern Irish one for the third (Baron Kileel in this case). Each place progressively smaller of course, as you’re a Duke of a large place, an Earl of a smaller, a Baron of smaller again and so on.

This explaining why Maurice Glasman could not, as he said he wanted to, become Baron of the City of London. Not because this was all a plot by the capitalists, but because for these ceremonial purposes the City is ranked as a county. You thus have to be rather grander than just a Baron to take that geographic area as part of your title. It is the wards of the City that can be used as the place name for a Barony.

So, Harry’s titles, the Dukedom is a county, the Earldom a town, the Barony a village – more or less.

Further, the Royals tend to take old titles that have gone extinct out of the dressing up box and reissue them when it’s a Royal who needs a title. So, the selection does tend to be guided by what’s in that dressing up box of history.

It’s also true that the titles will descend in rank – that’s why they’re subsidiary titles of course. Which leads us to an early 19th century joke. Arthur Wellesley’s older brother went off to be Governor of Bengal (wasn’t “India” at that point) and did well so he was raised a rank or two in the peerage. Made a Marquess in the Irish peerage he was. Which drove him into frenzies of rage and he lobbied for decades for this to be upgraded to Marquess in the British peerage – or even, by that time, the UK.

Then along comes Arthur and he’s made a Duke. With the subsidiary title of Marquess of Douro – in the peerage of the UK. So the younger brother gets, as that subsidiary and not very important, title the one the older brother has been screaming to get and doesn’t. Har Har, eh? But then the nights were long back then, TV didn’t exist and entertainment was where it could be found.

As to worrying about nicknames, well, he might be called Dumbo because he has big ears (or a big dick – even American society isn’t so po-faced that no one does the “Have you seen my elephant?” gig any more) but he might equally be called Nellie for that. A nickname will arrive because that’s just what children do.

The bit a Duchess might want to know is that it’s not actually Archie’s title, it’s her husband’s. Which, given that she shares it (umm, as Meghan, Lady Dumbarton perhaps?) would be a good thing to know. And the use of it for Archie is entirely a courtesy. And no one has to use it, nor does the holder have to insist. The current Marquess of Douro prefers to be known as the Earl of Mornington for example. His own subsidiary title in the Irish peerage…..

Or, as we might have noted once or twice before, Meghan doesn’t seem to understand the culture she’s married into very well…..

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Archie’s going to get the piss taken out of him for many more reasons than the courtesy title Earl of Dumbarton. Just for having Meghan and Harry as parents will be more than enough.

  2. The British and their titles. If they actually meant anything– well I suppose they can help you get laid. It’s easier to run a scam, as Lord Stern discovered. But, does being a Baron entitle you to have someone hung, drawn and quartered, or even put in the stocks? No? Then what’s the point?

    • Amen. Must admit I can never keep track of what’s what myself.

      Still, I suppose they’re fun for those who like such things. No doubt they’re one of the reasons Meghan married Harry. Though I’ve always assumed the money was the main thing.

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